Your college should make targets for carbon net zero and biodiversity net gain. The central university has committed to these by 2035, and some colleges have committed to be even more ambitious with Mansfield committing to 2030, and Wolfson committing to developing a zero carbon estate by 2024. 


Without a robust strategy, these targets won't be achievable. Your college should develop a sustainability strategy to meet these targets. The university's strategy might be a good place to start when your college is considering what to include. This strategy could have sections including (but not limited to): 

  1. Carbon emissions
  2. Biodiversity
  3. Sustainable food
  4. Sustainable buildings
  5. Sustainable resource use
  6. Travel
  7. Investments
  8. Banking

It’s important that your college’s strategy considers Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. As explained in the University’s central sustainability strategy: ‘Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions, primarily from gas used for heating buildings. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from electricity generation for use in University buildings. Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions from activities of the organisation including travel, procurement, waste, water and investments.’ 


Governance and Staffing 

In order to make decisions around sustainability, it’s important your college has governance mechanisms including paid staff time, and a working group with student representation. Examples of colleges with sustainability working groups include Exeter, Mansfield, and Sommerville.   

To get to net zero and biodiversity net gain in colleges, paid staff time will be required, and this can be arranged in a number of ways including: 

  1. Sustainability Administrative Staff - This is the best option.
  2. Sustainability Fellows - academic staff paid extra to work on sustainability.
  3. Students employed to work on sustainability - as has been done at Sommerville with a Sustainability Officer.

Check out Kellog College, Sommerville college, who have organised this in different ways. Exeter, Lincoln and Corpus Christi have also grouped together to hire a sustainability coordinator, with more information here.  


How to campaign for these things in your college: 

Firstly, reach out to your college Environment & Ethics (E&E) representative to find out what they're doing. If you’re not sure who they are, you can find out via our Common Rooms pages. (You will need to be logged in to the website to see this). 

If you are the E&E rep, or your E&E rep needs some support, the first step you can do is ask your college what they are already doing. If they have not committed to the above measures, you could pass motions in your JCR and MCR in support of them. This will show your college that there is wide student support. Example motions were developed by Decarbonise Oxford and can be linked below. 

Once you’ve passed a motion demonstrating student support, you can then write a letter to the head of your college and your bursar, in which you can ask for the sustainability commitments listed above. This letter developed by Decarbonise Oxford could be a good starting point, if you update it and make it relevant to your asks.  

If your college are not supportive of such asks, or are not making progress, it may be helpful to point out the great work that other colleges are doing. If you would like support in doing this, reach our to our VP for Charities and Community, Anna-Tina at


Decarbonise Oxford 

 Decarbonise Oxford is a student campaign, led by Oxford Climate Society, aiming to get colleges to decarbonise. 

This term, Decarbonise Oxford will be holding meetings open to any students working on sustainability in colleges - this should be a good place to feel supported, learn what’s going on at other colleges, and focus on the specifics of different sustainability areas.

There will also be workshops run on specific issues where you can get support in understanding what colleges can do.   


A report on existing college sustainability initiative 

The CLOC evidence base, which has details of the progress at each college gathered from publicly available information by the organisation Climate Leagure of Oxford and Cambridge. 

Your E&E reps for your college should have access to our shared drive where we have more detail about what's happening at each college.